This is being written a little late I’m afraid, it’s been a busy few days, with a couple of evening wild activities, so although it’s actually now Day 19, here’s what we got up to on Day 16.
Thursday evening saw us join a local Wildlife Trust Group for a visit to the Heather Farm. This is a site close to Woking owned and managed by Horsell Common Preservation Society. The Heather Farm opened to visitors on January 9th this year after an amazing transformation, which Paul Rimmer, the estate manager, told us all about before we had a guided walk around the site.
Until 2003 the site was a mushroom farm. In 2011, the site was acquired by the Horsell Common Preservation Society. Buildings were demolished and 14 acres of concrete hardstanding were removed from site. The concrete was crushed and used in the foundations of the new Cobham Services on the M25. At the end of 2012 planning started for the new site.
The site is mostly floodplain and in conjunction with the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust a plan was drawn up for the site. A 3D model was produced and transmitted to the bulldozers. A main lake and 5 wildlife ponds were dug and circular path around the wetland put in place. By June 2013 all the hard landscaping was completed . 15000 plants were then put in around the lake and ponds. In December 2014 the Bourne burst it’s banks and filled the lake.
The Heather Farm now provides 70 acres of new public open space. In acts as a SANG- a suitable alternative natural greenspace, to relieve pressure on the nearby heaths that are part of the Thames Basin Heaths SPA (special protection area). Specifically it provides space for dog walkers and owners, to try to encourage dog walkers to this area and away from areas where ground nesting birds may be disturbed. (I’ll be writing about one of these species soon, as we went on a special walk to see and hear them on day 18).
There is a cafe on site, the Waters Edge Cafe, where we had a coffee before the talk, with tasty food available and doggy treats. The cafe is dog friendly, a dog wash is provided and there are even towels to dry off damp canines. On the site there is a dog exercise and training area and there is even a slope into the river so that they can get in to paddle and cool off. It really is a pooch paradise.
It is really hard to imagine, looking at the site now, that there was once a large factory and so many acres of concrete here. It was beautiful looking out over the waving grasses and the lake. On one of the ponds a coot shifted to show off her fluffy youngsters, and on the main lake tufted ducks bobbed and swam. A large group is never the best way to see the wildlife on a site but a local bird ringer and recorder told us a little of the life on the site including little grebes, mallards and canada, egyptian and greylag geese breeding and visiting little egrets. We’ll definitely be back for another visit to see what we can spot, and to try out the cafe. Even in a group the site could be appreciated. The grass waving, full of purples, pinks, reds and many shades of green was stunning against the angry black sky, thunder sounded around us, but luckily it stayed dry while we explored the site.
We’ll definitely be back for another visit and if you live nearby, I recommend that you visit too!
Other wild acts of Day 16:
At home, before we left for the evening at the Heather Farm we had an amazing thunderstorm, claps of thunder directly overhead and sheet lightning. The rain smashed down, bouncing off the ground and rooftops. And what’s the best way to enjoy a downpour? Dancing in it, of course! I slipped outside and twirled around in the pounding rain on our patio. The rain was cool against my skin and very refreshing, after a warm humid day and although I’m sure I looked like a loon, it was very refreshing.
We also watched the starlings visiting the garden, one very young fledgling visiting with its parent, and being fed on our fence, a lovely sight.